What's your kid looking at online?

Oh, no, your child saw what while they were innocently clicking on Youtube videos? Yvonne Walus helps rectify the mistakes parents make when talking to kids about the internet.

Just when you thought parental guilt and chores couldn’t get any worse, along comes the internet this time, not as the repository of advice and virtual companionship, but a minefield in which your baby is taking his or her first electronic steps. The modern world is becoming more and more digital by the day. Not only do we need to learn how to stay safe online, we also have to take special care of our child’s safety when they are surfing the internet. But nothing comes out of knowing everything from the start. Internet etiquette too requires a similar learning curve for adults and kids alike. Will they and you! make mistakes along the way? You bet.

Mistake 1: Not talking about the dangers at all

The number one reason most parents delay “the talk” (about internet safety) is that they reckon they don’t need to do anything until their children hit the pre-teen stage. And yet, it’s never too early to talk about internet safety. In fact, showing your children important information such as this Avast vs Express VPN comparison would help them understand why the online world can pose dangers of its own. As soon as kids have access to an electronic device, it pays to teach them to only click on the “safe” icons and links; in other words, the ones that you showed them. If they want to explore, they need to do it with you. Explain why not everything in cyberspace is suitable for them: Level of difficulty on games, age restrictions, or not applicable yet (like a personal banking app). As they learn to read and type, teach them to browse safely. You can set up parental controls on their Google or direct them to a search engine safe for kids. For example, safesearchkids.com uses Google’s SafeSearch features and imposes filters that block out potentially harmful materials. You can also learn how to make YouTube safe for children with this tutorial: bit.ly/2UdZ6Rb

When your kids are old enough to use social media, it’s important to discuss stranger danger and cyberbullying. Teach them about privacy settings, verifying the identity of people who say they are their cousin Jo, etc. Educate yourself about the different types of social media available and why some kids may choose to interact on multiple platforms: bit.ly/2CEdVVX. Above all, they should understand that they can and should talk to you about anything that they find scary, upsetting or uncomfortable. Incidentally, if your children are already online citizens, and you haven’t spoken to them about internet safety yet, don’t worry. It’s never too early, but it’s also never too late.

Mistake 2: Stigmatising sex

Shocked by their child’s visit to an adult website, some parents overreact and end up making sex sound like something embarrassing or even evil. So how do you talk to children about pornographic content they may encounter online? Regardless of their age, reassure your child that they are not in trouble. Find out how they encountered the adult content, why they searched for it, and how it made them feel. Ask your child to come up with suggestions on what to do if someone shows them pornography in future. Remember to explain why such sites are inappropriate: Because they teach unhealthy behaviours and wrong attitudes to sex, because they objectify women, because they are all about sex and not about love or intimacy. If your children are too young for this conversation, explain that many internet sites are scary and upsetting for most people, and small people especially.

Mistake 3: Assuming the worst

It’s all too easy to find inappropriate content even if you’re not looking for it. So if you discover that your child’s browsing history is disturbing, stop and analyse the situation. Are the bikini images a result of your child’s window-shopping, or their interest in the human body? Was the adult site an accidental click, an unfortunate choice of words when googling something innocent, or a deliberate act? Give your child the benefit of the doubt, allow for mistakes, and offer a clean slate. It’s more important to keep the lines of communications open than to lose your child’s trust.

Mistake 4: Not using parental controls

We’ve all heard about safe search engines, filters, apps, and software that block undesirable contents, so it’s not the lack of awareness that trips up some parents. Those who fail to install parental controls on their children’s devices are usually parents who don’t feel confident with modern technology. Google the best parental controls, and choose the ones that work for you. Some of the features you might want include: Blocking inappropriate websites, texting management, location tracking, ease of use.

Mistake 5: Relying solely on parental controls

Simply relying on parental control apps as a way to control a child’s online behaviour might make the child resentful and rebellious. It’s far better to teach kids how to self-monitor, and to use the app as a backup option.

Words of wisdom

The internet is a wonderful, powerful tool, but it can be destructive when abused. Open communications, rules, and guidelines will help manage the risks.

There are three types of parental controls

Network controls set on your home internet, device controls set on the phones and laptops (regardless of whose internet they connect to), and application controls set on individual apps such as YouTube. They allow you to:

  • Filter and block unsuitable content coming in and going out.
  • Set limits for online time and screen time.
  • Decide when the internet and individual devices can be used.
  • Set different profiles for different family members.

What are the e-dangers?

Inappropriate content, with messages about smoking, drinking, drugs, sex; usually accompanied by swear words and explicit body part images.

Scary Content:

People or animals being hurt, horror movies, and sometimes even the current news.

False Content:

Not everything we read or see online is true. Videos and images can be doctored.

Stranger Danger:

Online, it’s easy to chat to strangers. You feel like you know them sometimes they feel as real as your school friends. And yet, you only ever know what they tell you. Some of it may not be true. None of it may be true.


This can be deliberate or the result of a misunderstanding. Teach your child what the law says so that can never be guilty of bullying or distributing illegal material.

Social Media Depression:

It’s not fun to see photos of a party you weren’t invited to, or brag posts about awards and gifts, or picture-perfect images of a holiday someone else is having.

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